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CNN NewsNight with Abby Phillip

Trump Likens Himself To Nelson Mandela Ahead Of Trial; Trump Jurors Will Be Asked About News Sources, Fringe Links; Millions Across U.S. Experience Rare Total Solar Eclipse; "NewsNight" Tackles Right To Abortion; American Isis Sympathizer Stopped From Shooting Up Churches. Aired 10-11p ET

Aired April 08, 2024 - 22:00   ET



JANNA LEVIN, ASTROPHYSICS PROFESSOR, BARNARD COLLEGE OF COLUMBIA UNIVERSITY: And there's an eclipse, actually, almost every year or two. They just don't always make it over land, and they don't necessarily make it over North America.

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN HOST: Scale of one to ten, how is today's eclipse?

LEVIN: Today was spectacular, and also in about a half a billion years, there will be no more total eclipses, because the moon will be too far away. So --

COLLINS: Well, I'm happy that no one can. In half a billion years, mark your calendars for that. Janna Levin, great to have you.

LEVIN: Thanks for having me.

COLLINS: Thanks for talking about the eclipse with us. Thank you all for joining us tonight.

CNN's NewsNight with Abby Phillip starts right now.

ABBY PHILLIP, CNN HOST: Why Donald Trump is nothing like Nelson Mandela, that's tonight on NewsNight.

Good evening, I'm Abby Phillip in New York.

Tonight, a Donald Trump comparison that crumbles when confronted with common sense. The former president believes he is being persecuted by prosecutors, and for that reason, he's claiming that there are similarities between Nelson Mandela's plight and his own.

Trump wrote this on Truth Social. If this partisan hack wants to put me in the clink for speaking the open and obvious truth, I will gladly become a modern day Nelson Mandela.

Well, for starters, I'm really not sure anyone has asked that of him, but you might also recall that this is not the first time that Trump has made this very comparison.


DONALD TRUMP (R), FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT, 2024 PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: They hound them and they scare them and they -- but we don't get scared. We don't get scared. I'll tell you what, I don't mind being Nelson Mandela because I'm doing it for a reason.


PHILLIP: Trump wants to lay claim to Mandela's mantle without actually understanding who Mandela was or the reasons why Mandela suffered.

Let's start with just the circumstances. As they are today, Trump is not a prisoner unless you consider Mar-a-Lago or Bedminster or Seven Springs or Trump Tower or a penthouse suite, very, very expensive luxury cells. Mandela spent 27 years in Robben Island alone in an eight by eight cell. He referred to his incarceration as unpleasant, which is a master class in understatement.

Life there left Mandela's eyes damaged. It's why he wore sunglasses and photographers were warned against using flash photography around him.

Mandela lived nearly three decades there serving time for high treason and all for protesting the racist apartheid system.

Meanwhile, Trump, he's facing 88 counts in four separate jurisdictions for trying to steal a presidential election or for trying to buy the silence of Stormy Daniels.

Mandela was released in 1990 and he won the presidency in 1994. He was freed and he freed his nation from institutionalized racism.

Meanwhile, Donald Trump wants to win the White House by stoking racial division.


TRUMP: They're poisoning the blood of our country. That's what they've done. They poisoned mental institutions and prisons all over the world.


PHILLIP: Mandela dedicated his life not just to liberation, but also to equality. He closed his trial by reciting this from memory. I have fought against white domination. I have fought against black domination. I have cherished the ideal of a democratic and free society in which all persons live together in harmony and with equal opportunities. It is an ideal which I hope to live for and to achieve. But if need be, it's an ideal for which I am prepared to die.

Now, that passage is the core of Mandela's legacy as a bridge builder. It is that very thing, that slice of Mandela's political persona that stuck most with former President Barack Obama.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) BARACK OBAMA, FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT: There are too many leaders who claim solidarity with Madiba's struggle for freedom, but do not tolerate dissent from their own people.


PHILLIP: Those who don't tolerate dissent. Listen again here to Donald Trump, in his own words.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do you regret not locking her up, and if you're president again, will you lock people up?

TRUMP: The answer is you have no choice because they're doing it to us.


PHILLIP: The point here is if you look at the crimes, the punishments, the motives, the promises on how they will treat their persecutors real and perceived, Mandela and Trump, there really is no comparison.

For more on this, I want to bring in the host of the podcast, The Right Time with Bomani Jones. Also with us is CNN Political Commentator S.E. Cupp.

S.E., Mandela again.


Why? Why does he do these things?

S.E. CUPP, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: He does it because he can. He's conditioned his base to believe it. I mean, he compares himself to Jesus too. And you would have thought that a very evangelical base would have been appalled and offended by that, but he's conditioned them over the past eight years to actually see that as the case.

And Trump as victim, as persecuted, is a narrative that he has drummed for years. And, you know, the 91-plus indictments, it's all proof to him in his base that they are after him. But this started very simply with him saying in like 2015, 2016, there's a deep state and they're coming after us. Then it was the media, then it was the Democrats, then it was the generals, then it was the intelligence community.

Anyone who dared look sideways at Trump was then corrupt and coming for him. He did that all for moments like this, so that he can be a victim and equate himself with one of the greatest civil rights leaders this world has ever known. It's absurd but they buy it.

PHILLIP: And the Jesus part of what S.E. is talking about, it does raise the prospect that Trump is actually playing into a desire among evangelical Christians to align Donald Trump with their faith.

BOMANI JONES, HOST, THE RIGHT TIME WITH BOMANI JONES: Yes. You know, I want to be careful of the assumption of Donald Trump playing four dimensional chess, because I think the reason he's talking about Nelson Mandela is because he's actually heard of him. Like I think like when he's like trying to think in his mind, like, damn, man, who's in jail? Yes, who's in jail for a long time? Like, if this young thug trial keeps going, he'll start using him.

Like, normally, when people do things like this, you ask yourself the question, who is like, who does he think he is? Who does Donald Trump think he is? And in this case, the question is, who exactly does he think Nelson Mandela is? Because I think the most fascinating part of this is imagining Ronald Reagan spinning around in his grave at the thought that a Republican nominee for president would think that comparing himself to Nelson Mandela, of all people, who Reagan all the way until the end told us was a very, very scary man would be the person that Trump would associate himself with. He just can't think of anybody else that went to jail for a bad reason that just like registers with people anymore.

PHILLIP: I mean, I guess he has a point that, I mean, he clearly doesn't know, as we just outlined, what Nelson Mandela is all about. But is this -- it's not -- I mean, it's certainly not four dimensional chess, but is this just Trump just reaching for the closest analog as opposed to him trying to actually do something politically?

CUPP: Well, I don't think he's right. Well, I mean, yes, he's trying to do something politically, which is appeal to a base and keep them with him. But it might not be four dimensional chess, but it's not checkers either. I think he picked someone that a generation remembers. And it's a specific generation. It's not the generations coming up. It's the generation that's largely voting for him and still standing by him.

And so I think he picked him for a reason. And I think he really does align himself with this idea of being politically persecuted for doing the right thing. He has convinced himself and his base that it was the right thing to overturn a democratic election, that it was the right thing to pay off Stormy Daniels, that it was the right thing to defraud New York City. I mean, he really has flipped all of this on its head. And the crazy part is they believe him now. They believe it.

PHILLIP: Or that if it's -- even if it's not the right thing, that it doesn't matter, that it's not as important.

CUPP: Well, that's the point, that it's -- the other side is so bad that this is all justified.

PHILLIP: I want to raise something that's a little left field, but it's related. This has to do with Robert F. Kennedy Jr. There is a person who calls themselves the director of his New York operation, basically saying that her number one priority is to keep Biden from winning. This is somebody who works for Robert F. Kennedy.

The quote is, the only way that Trump can even have the remote possibility of taking New York is if Bobby is on the ballot. If it's Trump versus Biden, Biden wins. Biden wins six days, seven days a week. With Bobby in the mix, anything can happen. I mean, talk about just putting it all out there, saying the quiet part out loud. Is this just a play to help Trump?

JONES: Yes. I feel like we generally know that the third party people know they're not going to win, right, with the exception of maybe Ross Perot in our lifetime. That's the only time somebody, that you really had a realistic possibility this other person could do it. But, normally, they at least try to masquerade as though there's some larger cause that they're trying to offer.

That's not even the game that they seem to be playing here with this one, and that, I find it to be very stunning, right? He's basically Kanye West. Well, Kanye West was in 2020, where you basically figured out, they think, hey man, if we can just chip away a little bit at the margins, we might be able to get something done. It's the whole purpose of the reason that they do this.

PHILLIP: I think that's given Kanye's run a little bit.

JONES: No, it's giving his run too much credit except the people that were funding it seem to obviously believe that that was the case, right? Kennedy is operating, though, going to it against a bigger base of people that he seems to be trying to appeal to. It's a certain brand of wacko that I think rides along with what it is that he's doing. I've just never seen them tell the world out front and give the game away like that.

PHILLIP: But do you really think that they believe that this will actually hurt Biden, because RFK Jr. is running around mimicking Trump talking?


CUPP: Yes. Can we please stop pretending that he is going to be a Biden spoiler? I mean, I hear this from the Democrats. I hear this all the time. It is absurd and insane. He is parroting Trump talking points. He calls elections, not one, but two of them stolen. He is making a play for Trump voters with his conspiracy theories and his V.P. pick. I mean, all of this is for Trump voters. And if your goal is to hurt Joe Biden, you don't do it by splitting his votes. You do it by splitting the other guys.

So, this narrative that he is trying to get Democratic votes with his name, absolutely absurd. He could not be more nakedly after Trump voters.

PHILLIP: Do they just not understand his appeal? I'm just trying to -- meaning this person, Rita Palmer, the head of his New York operation, I mean does she just not understand the RFK Jr. vote?

CUPP: I think she does. I think she does understand it. I think she understands that they are taking from Trump. They want the right wing conspiracy theory-loving, all the elections were stolen, they want this crowd. He has said, Democrats don't get you anymore. They've left you behind. He doesn't want those voters. He doesn't talk like a man trying to get Democrats disaffected with Joe Biden. He is more pro- Israel than anyone running ever on the left, ever, and that is a huge wedge issue for Democrats now. There is nothing about RFK that is appealing to the far left or the moderate left.

PHILLIP: We'll see how long Trump stays quiet about him once that starts to materialize.

Bomani and S.E., thank you very much and stick with us. We'll see you later in the show.

And just in tonight, we are now learning what questions potential jurors will be asked at Trump's hush money trial. That starts next week. Now, everything from where they get their news to whether or not they have any links to fringe groups.

So, just listen to some of these examples. Have you ever considered yourself a supporter of QAnon, Proud Boys, Oath Keepers, Three Percenters, Boogaloo Boys, or Antifa?

Another question, do you have feelings about how Mr. Trump is being treated in this case? Have you ever attended a rally or a campaign event for Donald Trump? Do you currently follow any anti-Trump group on social media?

Now, this comes as an appeals court judge just rejected Trump's last minute latest appeal to change the venue of this trial.

Joining me now to discuss all of this is CNN Legal Analyst, Karen Friedman Agnifilo, and she's also the former chief assistant district attorney for the Manhattan District Attorney's Office.

Karen, when you look at some of these questions that the potential jurors are going to be asked, I mean, what do you see there about what both sides are trying to accomplish with these jury questions?

KAREN FRIEDMAN AGNIFILO, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: So, it's clear that both sides submitted questions to the judge saying, can you please ask these questions so it's not clear what I'm looking for, what the other side is looking for, which is very common in jury selection. There're certain types of questions that you want to know the answer to, but you don't necessarily want the jury to hear that you're asking that question.

PHILLIP: So that they don't try to game the system somehow, perhaps.

AGNIFILO: Exactly, exactly. So, they're just trying to -- this is all in an effort to get a fair and impartial jury for this case, for this particular case, this set of facts, this particular defendant. And so they're all trying to see, are there any feelings that you have or thoughts that you have that would cause you to not be able to be fair in this case to both sides?

PHILLIP: Obviously, the biggest issue in all of these cases is going to be finding the one person or whatever, it's going to be more than one person who does not know a lot about this case, has not heard a lot about this case, does not have any feelings about it. I mean, how difficult is that going to be? AGNIFILO: Well, look, everybody comes to every jury trial with certain feelings and certain views and thoughts about issues, et cetera, right? Nobody is pro-crime, but yet you still find people who can be fair and impartial and listen to the evidence.

And that's what you're looking for, people who don't have an axe to grind or who aren't trying to do some other agenda other than evaluate the evidence because the people -- the prosecution here has to prove their case beyond a reasonable doubt. And they have to be able to listen to it even though they might have feelings and opinions about things.

PHILLIP: So, one of the interesting things is that the judge says that he would dismiss a juror who said they can't serve on the trial without really pressing them any further, he wants to expedite this process because he's seen how difficult the jury selection can be and how time intensive it can be. The defense actually wants them to be questioned. Is this going to be something that holds up this process?

AGNIFILO: Well, it's not going to because what the judge did was he made it so that it will go faster. The defendant in every case in New York has the right to be present for all sidebar conferences that's under a case called anti-marquee (ph).


And so in order to have a jury express their private feelings or their private opinions, you don't want them to say it out loud because it can taint the rest of the jurors who are sitting there would require not only all the lawyers to come up to the bench, it would also require Donald Trump, his Secret Service agent, et cetera.

And it would just cause such an issue, it could grind this to a halt, that the judge just said, let's just streamline it. Anyone who has any of those issues, we will just excuse them so that we don't have to go through that if they have some issue here. So, that's what he decided to do.

PHILLIP: While we are a week out. Do you actually expect us to see this trial start next Monday?

AGNIFILO: Yes, but I do think Trump has a few of his standard tricks up his sleeve that he's been pulling out in every case. And there're still a few more moves that I think he hasn't quite taken advantage of. For example, he could go to the Supreme Court and ask them to stay the case.

Ten days after this case is supposed to start, they're hearing the presidential immunity case. And he's alleging presidential immunity in this case, too. He might say, what's the rush? Stop the case for a few weeks while we hear that case. It's already on an expedited schedule.

So, I think that might be coming. And this morning in Trump's statement regarding abortions, he named the Supreme Court justices individually. That just felt like a message that he was sort of talking to them, and it just feels like he's going to be going to the Supreme Court.

PHILLIP: Yes, that seems to be the move that they resort to maybe hoping that the court will just step in, in one of these cases, and give them a little bit of a Hail Mary saving grace here.

Karen Friedman Agnifilo, thank you very much for all of the legal insights on all of this. A busy couple of weeks ahead for you and the rest of us here.

And ahead for us on this show, many conservatives are livid with Donald Trump after he revealed his stance on abortion. I'll speak with a pro-life leader on that issue.

Plus, I'll also speak with the reporter who was booted from a Republican event over what they call unfair coverage.

And also, a generational event just unfolded today. Wait until you see the best moments from today's eclipse. We'll have them all in just a few moments.



PHILLIP: So, by the time America sees another total solar eclipse, the year will be 2044. If you're counting, that's six presidential elections from now, 20 Super Bowl champions, and Beyonce will 62 years old.

So, it's no wonder that millions and millions of us are putting on weird sunglasses, and today we looked up and there were some weird things that happened. Here are some highlights.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The first totality for this total solar eclipse, hitting Mazatlan, Mexico.

ROSA FLORES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: The partial eclipse has started in Kerrville, Texas.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I now pronounce you joined in holy matrimony.

HARRY ENTEN, CNN SENIOR DATA REPORTER: And I was almost joking about those people who chased the solar eclipses. What are they doing? Now I understand what they're doing.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: They said they were being a lot more active during this time, just like we saw with the zebras and the giraffes.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You can see the ostriches have huddled together there in the distance. Yes.

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN ANCHOR: It's in that zone of totality, which is going to be amazing here in Indianapolis.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Let's take a moment to experience this together. We are at totality in Indianapolis.

ENTEN: I mean, unbelievable.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You feel your mom here. You guys are finally married. And this show in this guy, how are you feeling? How are feeling, Gary?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Actually, he made me cry. I didn't think I'd cry,

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We're going to cry, we're going to cry.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Religious movement.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I don't even know how to encapsulate this moment. I have chills.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I know, I'm about to try.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Okay, put your glasses on.


PHILLIP: And that was me with my little one, making sure she keeps her glasses on.

Now, we were all down here with two feet on the ground watching that solar eclipse, but just imagine what it was like to watch that from space.

My next guest did just that in 2017 aboard the International Space Station. Joining me now is astronaut Jack Fischer. Jack, good to see you.

Just before today, only 23 people had actually witnessed a total solar eclipse from space and you are one of them. So, what was that experience like compared to, you know, watching it today from Earth compared to what you saw back in 2017.


COL. JACK FISCHER (RET.), NASA ASTRONAUT: Well, thanks for having me tonight, Abby. And it was amazing. You know, you get an experience like that where you get to just see the beauty of the universe all come aligned, and then this shadow just tracing across the United States.

But I have to tell you, today was cooler. I'm up in Colorado Springs now as part of the Space Symposium where a lot of the industry leaders in commercial and civil and military space come together, and everybody was outside.

And just like you saw in all those videos, it was such a uniting force. It really fires people's imagination. And the company I work for, Intuitive Machines, just put a little lander, Odie, on the moon last month. And so everybody was looking at Odie, which is totally cool. That's the future of humanity. It's where we're going, and it was a really special moment.

PHILLIP: Speaking of Odie, you just talked about that lander that's up there on the moon, what data is Odie potentially picking up right now as a result of this celestial event occurring?

FISCHER: You know, Odie has taken a forever nap. So he is not giving us any data right now.

PHILLIP: He's done.

FISCHER: But we learned a lot about how to get there and really set up a thriving economy on the moon. So, it really is the future and we're excited about our next mission coming later this year.

PHILLIP: So, there were four more American astronauts who joined that exclusive club that you are a part of. They watched the eclipse from the ISS. So, the interesting thing about this also is that NASA planned their routes so that they could adjust the altitude over the course of months.

Explain to us a little bit more, what is the experience like from space? Do you need to wear special glasses? What do you see on Earth and what are you seeing in space?

FISCHER: You absolutely do need to wear special glasses. I won't say that we never cheat, but you do need to just like down here. Sunglasses aren't good enough and they do have special glasses for us. They also have special filters for the cameras so that we can get those great pictures from orbit. And it keeps you safe and it allows you to share that experience with the world.

PHILLIP: All right. Retired Colonel Astronaut Jack Fisher, thanks so much. What a cool experience you had.

FISCHER: Thank you, ma'am. Thanks for having me.

PHILLIP: And up next, some of Donald Trump's biggest supporters are now criticizing him tonight after he says that abortion should now be left to the states. Could this issue tilt the next election?

Plus, we are just getting some breaking news just weeks after the rampage at a performance hall in Russia. The FBI now says an American ISIS sympathizer has been arrested after plotting to shoot up churches. Stand by for that.



PHILLIP: Tonight, a Monday night news dump with giant national consequences. So, while you and much of the rest of America were watching that solar eclipse today, or maybe you were watching college basketball earlier, Trump now says that the states, not the federal government, should be the one to decide when it's okay for a woman to terminate a pregnancy.


DONALD TRUMP, REPUBLICAN PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Many states will be different. That many will have a different number of weeks, or some will have more conservative than others, and that's what they will be. At the end of the day, this is all about the will of the people.


PHILLIP: Trump in his campaign might hope that Christian conservatives don't notice or don't see all the headlines. But rest assured, we noticed, and so did many of the people on the right, and they are not so happy. Anti-abortion conservatives like Mike Pence, his former vice president, who calls the decision a retreat, that it's a slap in the face to the millions of pro-life Americans who voted for him in 2016 and 2020.

Now, Trump's final, for now, answer ends this month-long see-saw between trying to cater to the voters who want a national ban, telling them he's proud he brought Roe crashing all the way down, and telling the majority of Americans who are not interested in the federal government getting deeply involved in reproductive rights that he'll stay out of the way.


COLLINS: But that's what the question about federal abortion ban. You did not yes or no to that. You did not say how many weeks.

TRUMP: It depends what -- it depends what the deal is.

KRISTEN WELKER, NBC NEWS WHTE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: I want to know what you want. I want to know what you're going to do with your -- would you sign federal legislation that would ban abortion at 15 weeks?

TRUMP: I mean DeSantis willing to sign a five-week and six-week ban.

WELKER: Would you support that? You think that's too far?

TRUMP: I think that's a terrible thing and a terrible mistake? Now, I happen to be for the exeptions like Ronald Reagan with the life of a mother, rape, incest or if you talk five or six weeks.


PHILLIP: Joining me now is the president of Students for Life of America, Kristan Hawkins. Kristan, thanks for staying up for us tonight. I wonder, do you agree with former Vice President Mike Pence that Donald Trump just delivered a slap in the face to the pro-life movement?

KRISTAN HAWKINS, PRESIDENT, STUDENTS FOR LIFE OF AMERICA: Look, I don't believe this particular statement is the cause of the division between Mike Pence and Donald Trump. But I think we're very clear in the pro-life movement, and we've always been, that ending abortion is a federal issue, that your human rights, your right to exist, to not be killed, to not end or start, depending on a state line.


But I actually was pleasantly surprised by the president's statement today. I was glad to see that he didn't fall in the trap that Democrats wanted him to fall into of taking a stand on divisive, late- term abortion law, which would only prevent four to six percent of abortions in America, yet would have been a fundraising cash cow for Joe Biden and Democrats.

PHILLIP: Are you talking about a ban that is around -- are you talking about a ban on abortion that would be around 15 or 16 weeks? Is that what you're referring to there?

HAWKINS: Sure. In February, "The New York Times" rumored that President Trump was flirting with the idea of coming out for a 15 or 16-week Abortion Prevention Act. As soon as that happened, my inbox and my text messages was flooded by fundraising appeals from Democrats saying that Trump pledged to ban abortion, which they left out the part that a 15, 16-week Prevention Act would only stop about four to six percent of abortions in our country. But he didn't give them that opportunity today.


HAWKINS: He said, let's have the states have a say, which Dobbs, the Dobbs Decision did say that it is now up to the states, but it also did not eliminate the federal government.

PHILLIP: Well, he, I mean --

HAWKINS: So, we would say in the pro-life movement, there's a role for both.

PHILLIP: Your -- your, I think your interpretation of it is interesting, because Trump actually said he thinks this should be left to the states. He did not endorse a federal ban. So, are you suggesting that this is not actually going to be a long-term position for him?

HAWKINS: Well, I think it's very clear, like, I can count and most Americans can count, and we know that there's not 60 pro-life votes in the U.S. Senate to pass any pro-life legislation that would prevent abortions, because Democrats have been very clear. They can't name one abortion they disagree with.

And so, getting any Prevention Act passed in the Senate is going to be a monumental task. I think right now, when we're looking at momentum and progress to protect women and children from the predatory abortion industry, we're looking at the states. But that's not to say there's not a federal role. I mean, you can look at what Joe Biden has done, tragically yet brilliantly, in forcing the federal government to get involved here with abortion.

PHILLIP: Well, look. I mean, I think --

HAWKINS: Anyone who says it's a state issue should agree with you, it should defund Planned Parenthood and the abortion industry right away.

PHILLIP: I should just note that what you're talking about, the lack of 60 votes for a federal abortion ban, is also because the majority of Americans don't support it. But I wonder, do you at least -- do you at least support Donald Trump allowing exceptions? Kristen, do you at least support what Donald Trump says, which is that there should be exceptions for rape, incest, and the life of the mother?

HAWKINS: The pro-life movement's been very clear, and every pro-life law that is passed that is enacted today in America. Sadly, too few Americans know this. There is an explicit exception for protecting the life of a mother when her life is at risk during pregnancy. And we talk often about that in the pro-life movement, when there is a tragic case, when fetal maternal separation is needed. We don't even consider that to be an abortion, because the intention is to save life, not to be directly ending human life.

We've also been very clear in the pro-life movement that the circumstances of your conception do not define your worth and should not dictate whether or not you get to live or die. And so, that's been our position in the pro-life movement. That's been our position for the 50-some years that we saw Roe versus Wade.

But like I said, I'm not exactly in agreement with everything Donald Trump says on many issues, but I would say today his position that he outlines, I think, was a smart position of saying that states still should be involved and they should be very much involved protecting women and children from the abortion industry, and not undercutting so many of our state legislators who have acted with courage since the Dobbs decision to pass life-at-conception laws, heartbeat abortion prevention laws, chemical abortion bans.

But that's not to say there's not going to be a role for him. And what the pro-life movement is going to be requiring the President to do while we wait for those 60 votes, he needs to get to start day one, stopping the proliferation of chemical abortion pills, which now has chemically tainted human remains entering our waterways with known endocrine disruptors.

PHILLIP: So, just a couple quick things here. One, I just want to clarify, you said that when a woman's life is at risk and abortion is required, that's not an abortion. It is actually an abortion. The other thing is, you noted that you want to see things from Donald Trump.

The pro-life movements are going to demand things of Donald Trump. You talked about banning medication abortions. What about his running mate?


Is it going to be a requirement that Donald Trump's running mate be someone who is sufficiently anti-abortion for the pro-life movement?

HAWKINS: We've been very clear in my op-ed with Town Hall that was out yesterday, actually. I gave a full list of the requirements and our demands to President Trump. The first on the list was a pro-life running mate, a pro-life vice president, pro-life cabinet secretaries. I mean, there's so much to do when you think about how the Biden administration.

PHILLIP: Is this going to be a litmus test for anybody who --

HAWKINS: There are 80-year-old grandmas jailed today. Thanks to the Biden administration who prayed in front of a Planned Parenthood and are facing an 11-year federal prison sentence while squatters are entering homes in New York and their owners are being arrested. So, there is a lot.

PHILLIP: One final thing, Kristen. You heard, or Donald Trump said today that he supports IVF. You have a different position. You say the industry needs more regulation and more change.

HAWKINS: Absolutely.

PHILLIP: Is that -- I mean, that kind of sounds like code for more restrictions that could make IVF something that is out of reach for a lot of families. I mean, do you disagree with Trump that this should be something that is clearly legal for families who want to have children?

HAWKINS: Well, I think this is a time for a conversation. I think when the Alabama Supreme Court ruling came out, acknowledging the pain of the families who lost children because of the reckless nature of the IVF clinic, I think that was the start of a conversation. I don't know how much President Trump knows about in vitro fertilization or the Wild, Wild West that happens.

The fact that you can go into an IVF clinic today, create human beings, and tell the IVF clinic to discard those human beings if they're the wrong sex or if they have the wrong genetic makeup. That's eugenics. Children like mine who have cystic fibrosis are routinely thrown away in IVF clinics or discarded for life-ending research.

So, I would say there's a conversation. But what we do know in our own polling in our Institute for Pro-Life Advancement Students for Life that I put into the field immediately after the Alabama Supreme Court ruling was that the vast majority of Americans say they support IVF. But then when you educate them just in 30 seconds about what happens inside of an IVF clinic, we see dramatic, mind-changing results.

So, I would like to have a personal conversation with him about IVF, because I think ultimately when we talk in the pro-life movement, we want more babies and we want more families. But we need to do that in an ethical way that treats all human beings with dignity and value. And as Pope Francis said today, it's an indefinite dignity.

PHILLIP: Well, it's clear that that is actually a position that even many Republicans disagree with. It's also a position that the Alabama legislature disagreed with when they moved shortly after that Alabama Supreme Court decision to protect IVF and the ability of families to have access to it. HAWKINS: And we condemn that. We condemn that. We condemn the Alabama

legislature for making that decision, because that was a complete overreaction.

PHILLIP: Thank you very much for joining us on all of that tonight, Kristen Hawkins. And a Colorado journalist was kicked out of her state's Republican Party assembly. And the question is, why? Well, the party chairman of that state thinks that her straight news reporting is unfair.

I will speak with that journalist ahead. And breaking news, the FBI says that an American ISIS sympathizer was stopped from shooting up churches. We'll have more on that breaking news reporting next.



PHILLIP: Breaking tonight, a plot to kill parishioners in Idaho interrupted. The Justice Department says an 18-year-old who swore an oath to ISIS is now in custody after they stopped a planned attack against churches. CNN's Evan Perez is live in Washington for us. So, Evan, walk us through this very serious indictment and what it says this man wanted to do.

EVAN PEREZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yeah, Abby, this is a very eye-opening complaint here by the FBI. And according to them, this man, his name is Alexander Mercurio, 18 years old, was arrested over the weekend. What he planned to do, according to this criminal complaint that's been filed in federal court, is he planned to attack churches in Coeur d'Alene, Idaho.

According to this affidavit filed by the FBI, he's been certainly claiming that he had some affinity for ISIS since 2022 is when he became radicalized and said that he was swearing an oath to support ISIS, and since then has been talking to someone who he thought was connected to ISIS but actually was someone working for the FBI.

And so, they have, in this complaint, about 48 pages, you see a lot of his communications with someone, again, who he believes is connected to ISIS, can help him connect to people at ISIS and perhaps even bring him overseas to help join ISIS. He goes through these several years of communications. And then earlier this year, just in the last couple of months, his planning for a possible attack accelerated, according to the FBI. And that includes after this attack in Moscow, near Moscow, of ISIS, which killed 144 people.

According to this affidavit, he accelerated some of his planning. And I'll tell you just a little bit of what the FBI alleges here. They say that over the last few days, he recorded a message that he planned for ISIS to release. There you see a photograph of him that he had someone take of him.


You see him there posing with the ISIS flag. I think you can barely see there. He's holding a knife. According to the affidavit here, he planned to carry out this attack using guns, knives, and butane canisters. He was going to set things on fire. And he had a couple of churches in mind to attack specifically in Coeur d'Alene.

So, right now, he's in custody -- in federal custody. We expect that he's going to be brought to federal court tomorrow, or as soon as he can. They can get a federal court hearing for him to be presented with these charges. Abby.

PHILLIP: A very troubling case, indeed, Evan Perez. Thank you so much.

PEREZ: Sure.

PHILLIP: And next, a journalist was kicked out of her state Republican Party's assembly. The reason -- her reporting. She'll join me live.



PHILLIP: Tonight, bipartisan outrage over a journalist being kicked out of Colorado's Republican Party assembly. Now, their excuse is her reporting. Sandra Fish is a reporter at the Colorado Sun, and she's covered government and politics for decades there. Fish says that she got a text just before dawn on Saturday, just before the state Republican Party assembly.

PHILLIP: Now, it was from the event's organizer who said, in part, that she wouldn't be on the final press list with credentials because the state chairman believes her current reporting to be very unfair. Now, Fish went to the event anyway, and she received press credentials at the door. But about an hour into that event, security came up to her and asked her to leave. They escorted her out. She was escorted out by police.

PHILLIP: And joining me now is Sandra Fish. She's a journalist at the Colorado Sun. Sandra, thanks for joining us. So, on Friday, the day before this happened, you actually covered the Republican Congressional nomination assemblies. Why do you think that suddenly you were supposed to be banned from this particular day the next day?

SANDRA FISH, REPORTER, "THE COLORADO SUN": Abby, I don't know why they didn't want me there on Saturday, except that maybe that was the chairman's day to have his moment in the sun. And he doesn't apparently like my reporting.

PHILLIP: So, you have --

FISH: Although, I think my reporting's been fair.

PHILLIP: Well, I mean, tell us, I mean, what it is that you think that he's so upset about. You've reported on some of the controversies surrounding this is Colorado GOP Chair Dave Williams and his leadership of the party. But to be fair, many Colorado outlets have done the same thing. They've reported on these controversies, too. You've also covered Democrats, as well. Did you ever get a clear answer about what exactly was unfair about your reporting?

FISH: No. I reached out to the event organizer. I tried to ask him what he was talking about. He did not respond to me. And I know my peers and supervisors at the Colorado Sun reached out to Dave, never heard back. And, you know, I don't exactly know why just me and not others.

But I have reported on the fact that -- this is the first time in at least 20 years that the party hasn't had enough money to pay full-time staff. And Dave Williams announced his candidacy for the 5th Congressional District using the party email list.

And the party spent about $10,000 on mailers and another $7000 on postage to send a mailer at the end of February that attacks one of his potential opponents, Jeff Crank, and also Nikki Haley, and the local newspaper in Colorado Springs. So, I'm not sure why other people have covered some of those things, too.

PHILLIP: Yeah. It's all -- I mean, that all sounds like good journalism to me. Look, we did reach out to the Colorado Republican Party, and Dave Williams gave us the statement. He called your, quote, -- he called you a, quote, "fake journalist" and he accused you of sneaking into the event, even though, as we just laid out, you did receive press credentials at the door.

He also said this, quote, "The Colorado Sun is just an extension of the Democratic Party's P.R. efforts, and the only backlash we see is from the fake news media, radical Democrats and establishment rhinos who hate our conservative base and who always look for opportunities to bootlick the crooked press or pundits who hate true Republicans and President Trump." There's a lot in there. What do you make of the language in that statement?

FISH: You know, I have to say what I really appreciated is all the Republicans who've reached out to me privately and on social media to support me. This i -- and this isn't about me. This is about democracy. And there were about 3000 to 4000 Republicans there on Saturday doing work that represents the 900,000 registered Republicans in the state and the unaffiliated voters who lean to the Republican Party. And those people deserve to know what the party is doing on their behalf.


And that's what I was there for --

PHILLIP: -- to report on that.

And it sounds like, to your point, it's not just, you know, Democrats and the media coming to your defense. It's other Republicans who see this as really beyond the pale. Sandra Fish, thanks for joining us tonight. We appreciate you doing that.

FISH: Thanks for having me, Abby.

PHILLIP: And thank you so much for watching "NewsNight." "Laura Coates Live" starts right now.